Problems with this hypothesis: - If Turkey felt that Assad remaining in power was a dealbreaker there are any number of ways they could have played spoiler to the Vienna process that didn't involve picking a highly costly fight with Russia. - As of yesterday the Vienna process wasn't anywhere near bringing the conflict to an end on terms favourable to Assad. The 'terrorist groups' clause was a nearly-insurmountable obstacle, and one where the primary source of intransigence is from the Syrian government bloc. A Russian-Turkish conflict adds an extra couple of boulders to Everest - Stalling the peace process by iniating a proxy war with Russia doesn't obviously get Turkey closer to any of the things it wants: it is highly likely to increase Russian commitment to the Syrian government and runs the risk of alienating Turkey from its allies, both bad things for getting what it wants at the negotiating table. - The likely beneficiaries of this are Turkey's least favourite people: taken with the deterioration of ISIS's position in NE Syria it increases the likelihood of the YPG and its allies attempting to push across the last ISIS border crossings to link up with Efrin Canton (suddenly armed with new Russian gear), whereas a peace deal would free Turkey's preferred candidates in the armed opposition to create a buffer zone in that region. Unless you can point to some big upsides Turkey could concievably realise from this, I think it's much more likely that the shootdown was the result of Russia playing chicken with Turkish rules of engagement they were well aware of, amidst new deterioration in relations due to Russian support for Syrian offensives in Turkmen regions, neighbouring ethnic group whom Erdogan has sworn to protect (hmm, this sounds familiar).
You're right that the treaty does rule out invocation as a result of responses to aggression, but in the case of Turkey's sorties over Syria against ISIS, it seems like they'd be covered as self-defence and for those against the PKK and YPG Turkey would also have a pretty strong claim for self-defence for the purposes of the treaty. If Turkey started attacking Syrian Government aircraft or installations in Syria, then Articles 1, 5, 7 seem to rule out invoking collective self-defence.
The treaty doesn't have a 'legitmate action' category, it says members can invoke Article 5 in the event of an armed attack against them in the North Atlantic region, which is very expensively defined. If Turkish aircraft are attacked by Russia pretty much anywhere it is up to Turkey to decide.
That had always been a huge obstacle to the Vienna process, the issue is more that what little trust had been built up among the parties just got nuked, making every diplomatic step much more complicated and escalating the fight on the ground.
Even had it been a much more prolonged incursion, there were a number of intermediate steps that Turkey could have taken before resorting to armed force. This was an idiotic response, regardless of whether the Russian plane was behaving recklessly.
Quite right. Turkey opened up its border to foreign fighters of all descriptions, and turned a blind eye to the networks they built. Having the PKK as enemy number one means a relaxed attitude to ISIS, but the irony is that this a strategy based on the idea that Kurdish success threatens Turkish sovereignty that only works by creating an ISIS shadow state in Southern Turkey.
This is a problem that Assad ran into when he opened the Syria-Iraq border to foreign fighters in 2003. They too started to form undercover networks and work to build something their handlers couldn't control: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/11/-sp-isis-the-inside-story
Playing enemy of my enemy with jihadists groups always seems to wind up Faustian, but that doesn't seem to stop anyone.
Putin responding live: claims the shootdown happened 4km inside Syria, calls it a "stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorism", accuses Turkey of protecting ISIS and says this incident has "serious implications" for Russian-Turkish relations. Bedtime where I'm at, have fun chewing over that one.
At the moment it looks like a game of chicken gone wrong. I totally belive that the Russian airforce is dumb enough to violate Turkish airspace after warnings and the Turkish airforce is dumb enough to shoot down a plane for a fleeting incursion.
At the moment Turkey seems to be taking the definitive position that they shot down the jet after multiple warnings while Russian media is in a holding pattern, still suggesting it was ground fire inside the border and the official position is that too soon to tell. For what it's worth, Turkey has released this radar image. If accurate, the airspace violation appears to be quite small. I'm not an expert but it doesn't seem like it gels with Turkish claims to have warned the jet ten times in five minutes. Article Five says:
So I don't think it would work as a get-out clause for Putin if he attacked Turkish territory on the grounds you outlined. It seems more like that Russian and Turkish relations take a bad hit from this the damage to Turkish interests will largely take place in Syria.
Actual breaking news: According to the Turkish Government, one of its F-16s just shot down a Russian jet. Both pilots appear to have ejected, and a Turkmen FSA rebel group claims to have captured one of them. Russian helicopters are mounting a rescue operation. Russia, possibly attempting to avoid just the biggest diplomatic crisis since it invaded Crimea is claiming the jet never crossed the border and was brought down by ground fire. If both pilots are fine and there is one in Turkmen hands this could just be a diplomatic crisis, they have good relations with the Turkish government. If not, this could be the start of something much worse.
You don't remember us discussing that scandal? I brought it up when the story broke months ago in one of my MENA thread linkdumps and people had plenty to say.
Seeing how you don't explain how the upper levels of CENTCOM trying to paint a pretty picture about the state of the Iraqi army offensive invalidates the Administration's policy, much less makes a case for your own, is there anything else to this than an attempt at point scoring?